San Francisco rejected the plan, Chicago officials welcomed it with open arms, and now, mere months later, following promises of organic sponginess from George Lucas himself, Beijing's MAD Architects have unveiled their preliminary design for Chicago's Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. It looks part moonscape, part rising conical mass, part melted pile of marshmallow goop, and 100-percent MAD. Let's take a look, shall we?
Like MAD's previously unveiled live-in landscapes, this concept—as the firm describes in a press release—blurs "the line between structure and landscape," exploring "the relationship between nature and the urban environment." Under the mountainous structure, three levels of exhibition space connect "in infinite loops," reaching an observation deck and restaurant with 360-degree views, where the stone surface that rises from the harbor "crescendos into a 'floating' disc." At once "primitive," "futuristic," and "timeless," it seeks to be "more than a building," providing Chicagoans with "an urban vista for social interaction, bringing people closer to each other and to nature."
Aside from gallery space, the museum's conjoined slopes and hills include four theaters, an education center, and archival space, according to Gizmodo, totaling about 400,000 square feet. As the facade slopes toward the ground, it merges with a sinuous stone sidewalk that carves out amphitheaters and public green spaces from the 17 acres the museum is sited on. Surrounding it is the full panoply of lakefront Chicago attractions, including the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, and Northerly Island, which, like the Lucas Museum, had its landscape designed by Chicago's Studio Gang.
MAD cites Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe as inspirations for the project, drawing a connection to the rising conical design of Wright's Guggenheim Museum and kissing the ring of the city's one-time modernist master-in-residence. By integrating the "natural beauty of the park and Lake Michigan with the powerful man-made architecture of Chicago," MAD aspires for its design to join the ranks of the city's most recognizable landmarks. Architect Ma Yansong, who worked as an intern architect in Chicago before founding MAD, points out to Gizmodo's Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan that "even Mies was alien to Chicago" at one point.
The museum's holdings will a potpurri of high and low American artwork, including Norman Rockwell paintings and cover art from a MAD more recognizable to the average American teenager. And, of course, Star Wars stuff, although Lucas managed to hold off from directly referencing the franchise in the design of this building. According to Gizmodo, the team will go into schematic design now, and present a final proposal to the city in the spring of 2015.
Here's MAD founder Ma Yansong discussing his concept for the museum:
UPDATE: Curbed Chicago rounds up some of the critical reactions to the museum, including not-so-serious comparisons to Jabba the Hutt, and very serious characterizations of the design as a "land-eating colossus" that would be an illegal intrusion onto the lakefront. Also worth noting: the building has an estimate price tag of $400M, and would be four times the size of the rejected San Francisco proposal.